9 November 2006 Edition
The Mitchel McLaughlin Column
Governments must stand up to DUP
Following the hope and promise depicted by the two governments following the St Andrews talks and the mainly positive comments by political commentators it didn't take long for some within the DUP to rush to print setting down obstacles to progress. While it is to be welcomed that the DUP is consulting with its structures and its leader is generally maintaining an uncharacteristically measured stance, others such as Dodds and Campbell make statements clearly designed to destabilise the consultation process for others.
It is time that governments and political commentators stopped pandering to DUP double standards and its arrogant belief that everyone else has to adhere to its interpretation of democracy. Before we can move on to deliver the political institutions and structures that the people of Ireland endorsed in referenda the DUP needs a large dose of reality.
While the DUP can rightfully claim to represent the majority unionist point of view it neither represents the point of view of the majority of the people of either the Six Counties or of Ireland as a whole. Neither does it represent the majority view of the British political parties.
It is the DUP alone that is continually allowed to present new obstacles to political progress. All of the other parties are willing to play their part in delivering locally accountable government to the Six Counties and to build on the promise of the Agreement including its all-Ireland architecture. It is therefore incumbent on the two governments to stop the charade of referring to the need for the 'parties' to agree to the re-establishment of the GFA Institutions.
It is unacceptable that the DUP be permitted to dictate the parameters in which other parties engage in internal consultation on the St Andrews proposals. It is also unacceptable that it should demand that a prospective Deputy First Minister from another party should be required to take a Pledge of Office that would pre-empt the outcome of the democratic consultation process of that party.
If senior members of the DUP continue to make unrealisable demands of the two governments and other parties they should be told in no uncertain terms that if the other parties respond positively then the mechanism to form an Executive will be triggered regardless. The DUP like the other qualifying parties would then be eligible to nominate for its entitlements under d'Hondt. This would provide them with an opportunity to demonstrate their adherence to democracy by either nominating or allowing the process to continue with the other parties forming the Executive. Such a situation could pertain until such time as the DUP feels it is ready to share power on the basis of equality of mandates. I believe that such a scenario would provide the wake-up call to the DUP that would convince them that they cannot continue to block change and political progress.